Virginia Senate approves state legislative redistricting plan

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April 8, 2011

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By Tyler Millhouse

RICHMOND, Virginia: The Virginia State Senate approved a redistricting plan Thursday afternoon which sets new boundaries for the state's 40 senate districts. The decision comes on the heals of a house redistricting plan approved late Wednesday night. The senate merged their plan and the house plan as House Bill 5001.[1]

The senate-approved maps successfully met their variance requirement of 2% or less, with districts averaging a 1.13% (or 2,270-resident) variance.[2] Although the house plan enjoyed bi-partisan support, passing 86-8, the senate plan was approved by a 22-18 margin along partisan lines. Democrats control the Senate by a 22-18 margin. Overall, the senate plan has been more controversial. Republican critics cite a number of divided communities and contorted districts as significant faults. However, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) called the maps "even-handed" and argued that the criticisms were unwarranted.[3]

Racial issues have also played into the controversy. Republicans argue that the senate maps dilute minorities votes and should have created more majority-minority districts in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act. However, Democrats charge that Republicans are misinterpreting the act and are attempting to concentrate and isolate minority voters.[1]

In either case, both the house and senate plans are expected to benefit majority incumbents in their respective chambers. In the Senate, Democratic maps will consolidate two Republican districts in Virginia Beach and favor Democratic incumbents on the Peninsula. In the House of Delegates, the Republican plan will eliminate a Democratic district in Norfolk and dilute local Democratic districts while strengthening Republican districts on the Peninsula.[4][5]

The combined plan now moves to the house for concurrence where it will be considered on Monday. Any plan passed will ultimately require the approval of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).[6]

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